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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Cheer For Books

Barnes & Noble, America’s largest bookstore chain, announced Thanksgiving weekend sales in stores that were open a year ago were up 10.9%.  The independent bookstore trade group, American Booksellers Association, claimed a 16% increase for the week that included Turkey Day.  Most experts attribute this to the absence of Borders, which closed its doors earlier this year. 

PW Daily today said bookstore sales for the first 10 months of 2011 were up 2.0%, to $12.91 billion. For all of retail, October sales rose 7.2% and were up 8.0% in the January-October period.

Meanwhile, e-books continue to grow by leaps and bounds. In 2008 they only accounted for about half a percent of the marketplace. By 2010, they grew by 1000 percent and accounted for 6.4% of the marketplace. That is expected to surpass double digits for 2011. There is a bit of a gold rush now with e-books. The average price of an e-book that was purchased in 2010 was around $7.50 – based on 114 million e-books sold for 878 million dollars, but many books sell for a few bucks or pennies. USA Today reported today on some successful best-selling e-book authors. One author this year sold 800,000 books but only earned about $300,000, based on a cover price of just 99 cents.

Now, making more than a quarter million dollars for a writer is great, but considering the number of books that were sold is cause for alarm. It seems selling a book for cheap can work for some, but overall, it doesn’t bode well for the industry because there will come a saturation point where people can only buy and read so many books in a given month or year and the only books selling will be e-books for 99 cents, killing off the marketplace for many writers and publishers. It remains to be seen if new models will develop. Right now amazon, bn.com, Apple and /Sony are the main players, but if a new company and a new pricing model emerges, we’ll see new sales patterns.

Interview With Literary Agent Grace Freedson

1.  What does the Grace Freedson Publishing Network do?  Grace Freedson’s Publishing Network is a full-service literary agency, working with authors in all adult non-fiction categories—parenting, business and career, health/diet/fitness, cookbooks, animals and nature, science, etc. Because of my early experience in book publishing I also have a very extensive niche in the education and test preparation category.  I am well connected with all major publishers and they will routinely approach me with their internal wish-list because they know I represent high level authors with excellent credentials. I will work with authors from the inception of their concept until their proposal is ready for submission.  Once a contract is in hand I will review it thoroughly with the author and try to make any and all improvements that are in the authors best interest. Since my early years were in PR departments I will advise authors on PR and marketing opportunities as well.

2.  You have been helping authors for many years. What do you enjoy most about working with them? I never get tired of telling an author we’ve found a publisher for their work! I enjoy working with writers to shape their proposals and the fact that I deal with non-fiction allows me to learn something new every day.

3.  Where do you see the book publishing industry heading?  I think we must reconcile ourselves that books and their content will be available to the consumer in multiple formats. People learn in different ways. They want to be entertained and enlightened in different ways. As an advocate for the writer I want to make sure they are compensated for their work, their knowledge, their talent in an equitable manner, no matter how their material is being used.

4.  What advice do you have for struggling writers? Struggling writers must keep sharpening their skills and talents and be mindful of the changing publishing culture. They must work hard to establish their expertise in their field and cultivate a following. It’s also important to know your competition and what is already on the market in your genre.

5.  You used to acquire books for Barron’s Educational Series. What can authors do to convince an agent or an editor to convince them that their book should be published?  Authors must take great care in crafting a query letter and then a proposal indicative of the quality of their work. They must also be responsive to criticism and show a willingness to consider different views and perhaps revise accordingly.

Grace’s 5 Things Authors Need to Know

1)      Many authors will come to me and say that if they had a book deal they would then be able to get so many speaking appearances and interviews. In today’s publishing environment that no longer works. Authors must be establishing themselves as speakers and bloggers and involve themselves in all aspects of social media before they will get any attention from a book publisher

2)      It’s important to know your competition and position yourself appropriately.  Publishers actually like to see that there are books in your category that are being published successfully. You just have to provide the hook to make yours standout.

3)      The book publishing process can be very slow so authors need patience. Proposals can sit on the agent’s shelf or in the inbox for several weeks before it is read; it might sit with a publisher for months before it is read.

4)      Trends tend to change every six months. A category that is hot at the beginning of the year can lose steam in the heat of the summer. Authors need to monitor and anticipate trends.

5)      An author will receive differing and often opposing comments from every agent and every publisher that is contacted. Don’t keep trying to reinvent yourself each time this happens unless you truly agree with the comments.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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